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Durham Region Health Department Health Check-Up 2015

Christine Clark, administrative support clerk with Durham Region Health Department, displays the reference manual for Encounter, the Health Department\'s client health record information system.
Durham Region Health Department senior public health inspector Neal Mattes displays a number of the resources used to promote the KI pills distribution campaign.
Yemisi Aladesua, public health nurse with Durham Region Health Department, demonstrates the props and information used as part of the Helmet Safety initiative.

Message from the Commissioner & Medical Officer of Health

Welcome to Check-Up 2015! We continue to make a difference in the lives of Durham residents of all ages. For more detailed information check out our 2015 Performance Report and 2015 Annual Health Statistics. You can find our 2016 program priorities in our 2016 Health Plan.

As you read on, you’ll find information on the Health Department achieving the Accreditation Primer Award from Accreditation Canada and being designated as a Baby-Friendly Community Health Service by the Breastfeeding Committee for Canada. I’m also delighted to share details on our newest report from the Health Neighbourhoods project, Building on Health in Priority Neighbourhoods, which has been very well received by our community partners.

Our job at the Health Department is to protect and promote the health of Durham Region residents. To assist and support you with healthy living, contact us, browse our website, ‘like’ us on Facebook and ‘follow’ us on Twitter. Here’s to your good health and well-being!

Robert Kyle, BSc, MD, MHSc, CCFP, FRCPC, FACPM

In this issue...

Health Department achieves Accreditation Primer Award

Last fall, Durham Region Health Department was surveyed by Accreditation Canada in an effort to review the Department’s quality, safety and efficiencies. Accreditation Canada is an independent, not-for-profit, Canadian organization that consults with experts to develop health care standards. As a result of this survey, the Health Department achieved the Accreditation Primer Award, which helps organizations assess key areas of quality and safety.

Following the survey, Accreditation Canada provided the Health Department with a primer report that outlined observations, recommendations and highlights from the survey visit. The Health Department received a 98 per cent standing, which means that 101of the 103 survey standards were met. The Health Department will now proceed to Accreditation Canada’s Qmentum accreditation program, which focuses on quality and safety throughout all aspects of an organization’s services.

Highlights of the report included:

  • The Health Department has a strong leadership team and there is a good working relationship between the Commissioner & Medical Officer of Health and the Region’s Health & Social Services Committee.
  • The Health Department has a multitude of community partners.
  • The Health Department’s vision, “Leading the way to a healthier Durham”, has been embraced by staff throughout the department and this focus is seen through innovated projects.
  • The Health Department is diligent in complying with its prescribed requirements.
  • The Health Department’s Quality Enhancement Plans are well developed and executed.
  • The Health Department has a strong health information privacy and security culture.
  • Evidence-informed decision making permeates the entire department.
  • Continuous staff learning and development is a priority for the Health Department.
  • The Health Department has good client/stakeholder engagement.

The Health Department’s Accreditation Committee will continue to implement the client safety and ethics initiatives in preparation for Qmentum, scheduled for October 2017.

Health Department receives designation as a Baby-Friendly Community Health Service

Durham Region Health Department was awarded designation as a "Baby-Friendly Community Health Service" from the Breastfeeding Committee for Canada (BCC) in June 2015.

The BCC is the national authority responsible for the Baby-Friendly Initiative (BFI). Created in 1991 by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children Fund, the BFI is a global effort by health care providers to implement best practices that protect, promote and support breastfeeding. The Health Department recognizes that breastmilk is the optimal food for healthy growth and development of infants, and is committed to this initiative.

A team of assessors from the BCC visited the Health Department last June to perform an external assessment to determine the success of the designation. Through this process, the assessors used standards to measure how our services and programs meet the necessary criteria. Staff from all divisions collaborated during this review process.

Through the principles of the BFI, the Health Department assists all mothers and families to:

  • make informed decisions on how they will feed their babies,
  • be prepared with good knowledge about breastfeeding, and
  • feel supported as they continue to breastfeed their babies.

The BFI requires that all families are supported to feed their children in safe and nurturing ways, regardless of the feeding method chosen for their babies.

Building on Health in Priority Neighbourhoods

Health Neighbourhoods

Durham Region Health Department released the report Building on Health in Priority Neighbourhoods to highlight seven Priority Neighbourhoods that require focus to build on health and well-being.

The seven Priority Neighbourhoods are:

  • Downtown Ajax, Ajax
  • Downtown Whitby, Whitby
  • Lakeview, Oshawa
  • Gibb West, Oshawa
  • Downtown Oshawa, Oshawa
  • Central Park, Oshawa
  • Beatrice North, Oshawa

These Priority Neighbourhoods have the lowest income levels of the 50 Health Neighbourhoods in Durham Region and the highest rate of low income in children six-years old and younger. These Priority Neighbourhoods rank poorly in terms of overall low income rate, low education levels and unemployment, and also have many health challenges as shown by their rates and ranking on a variety of indicators.

The Priority Neighbourhoods also have many strengths and community assets. In the seven Priority Neighbourhoods combined, there are five public libraries, eight community centres, 42 recreation facilities, 88 parks, 26 elementary schools, 54 child care centres, eight Early Years Centres and much more. This is a small glimpse of the many community assets in these Neighbourhoods. Understanding communities from a strength base can help build on what is working well.

We have the opportunity to make Durham Region a healthier place for all to work, play and age. Building on Health in Priority Neighbourhoods is intended to spark a dialogue with community partners and area residents to help create positive change and find ways to improve the health and well-being of residents in these neighbourhoods.

The report concludes with seven recommendations, three of which focus on community engagement. Building on partnerships and working collaboratively with Neighbourhood residents will be the driving force for change.

Potassium Iodide (KI) distribution in Durham Region

For many years, Durham Region Health Department, in collaboration with the Durham Emergency Management Office (DEMO) and Ontario Power Generation (OPG), has facilitated the passive availability of Potassium Iodide tablets (KI) for residents and businesses within the primary zone (10-km radius) of the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station and the Darlington Nuclear Generating Station.

The Health Department has also actively provided KI pills to first responders (police, fire and Paramedic Services), school boards (public and separate), private schools, child care centres, hospitals, long-term care homes, municipal, provincial and federal government offices, and youth detention centres within Durham Region.

In August 2014, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) required that all households, institutions and businesses located within the primary zone of all nuclear plants in Canada be provided with KI pills by Dec. 31, 2015, in the very unlikely event of a nuclear emergency. In addition, the CNSC also mandated that KI pills be available for any resident of the secondary zone (up to 50-km radius) who desires to obtain a supply.

The Health Department, in partnership with DEMO, OPG, the Ontario Office of the Fire Marshal and Emergency Management, the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care and the City of Toronto Office of Emergency Management, collaborated over several months to develop strategies for a distribution, public education and communication plan for the more than 200,000 homes, institutions and businesses in the primary zones that were impacted - an area that has the greatest population density around any nuclear generating facility in Canada. A strategy was also formulated to facilitate the availability of KI pills for those residing in the secondary zone.

The communication strategy involved a two-phase campaign. Phase 1 (Pre-distribution) included an advertising campaign aimed at increasing public awareness of the upcoming distribution, highlighting why this initiative was occurring and what it means to the community. This phase also included the creation of a public information website, Phase 2 (Distribution) included further advertising during the distribution/mailing of KI pills, using the KI pill packaging and distribution system to help improve understanding of when and how the pills should be used, and reinforce the nuclear emergency plans and the history of safety at nuclear facilities.

Concurrent with the implementation of the communication strategy and distribution, was the organization of a public inquiry service/call centre for responding to KI-specific questions. In addition to the, members of the community were able to contact the Health Department’s Environmental Helpline (EHL) for additional information about KI and/or to request assistance ordering KI pills online. Since September 2015, the Health Department’s EHL responded to over 500 KI inquiries.

The development and implementation of the KI pre-distribution plan has been touted as a tremendous success. The current supply of pills distributed in 2015 has a 12-year shelf-life and will not expire until 2027.

EMS rebrands to Region of Durham Paramedic Services

Region of Durham Paramedic ServicesOn June 24, 2015, Durham Regional Council approved a change of name for Durham Region Emergency Medical Services to Region of Durham Paramedic Services (RDPS). This re-branding is more in line with the various services provided by RDPS and in keeping with province-wide initiatives in moving the paramedic profession forward.

RDPS provides support for TO2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games

RDPS partnered with Durham Regional Police Service, St. John Ambulance and the T02015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games Organizing Committee to provide onsite paramedic services to the TO2015 Games' venues in Durham Region. On a full cost recovery basis, RDPS was able to ensure that athletes, spectators and dignitaries were provided highly responsive, on-site paramedic care with no impact to our community deployment and responses. The TO2015 Games in Durham Region were widely regarded as being very successful and RDPS is pleased to have played a role.

Chief Richard Armstrong retires

After 45 years of service in the emergency medical services industry, RDPS Chief Richard Armstrong retired in January 2016. Chief Armstrong was hired by Durham Region in 1999 to create Durham Region Emergency Medical Services (DREMS), resulting from the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care's decision to download responsibility for ambulance services to the upper tier municipalities.

Chief Armstrong brought the seven ambulance services that existed in Durham Region at that time under one umbrella. Under his leadership over the past 16 years, DREMS developed into the Region of Durham Paramedic Services, regarded as a leader in paramedic services across Ontario. Chief Armstrong has handed over the reins of the service to our new Chief Troy Cheseboro. Chief Cheseboro is a lifelong Durham Region resident who has also spent his entire 25-year paramedic career serving Durham Region residents.

Changes to Healthy Smiles Ontario provides enhanced coverage for low income families

Healthy Smiles OntarioIn December 2013, the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (MOHLTC) announced that it would be integrating all provincially and municipally funded oral health programs for children under the Healthy Smiles Ontario (HSO) banner. The new program took effect on Jan. 1, 2016.

This new program provides basic dental coverage for children birth to 17-years old who previously received care through Ontario Works (OW), the Children in Need of Treatment (CINOT) program, the Ontario Disability Support Program, HSO, Assistance for Children With Severe Disabilities, and preventive services provided under the Ontario Public Health Standards (OPHS). Children will receive a full range of basic dental care through this new program. Low income families who have access to some form of dental insurance are no longer automatically ineligible for HSO. Children who do not qualify for the new program may still be eligible for emergency care through the Emergency and Essential Services Stream (EESS) of the HSO program. The big change as a result of the integration of these programs is that the Health Department no longer pays child dental claims effective Feb. 29, 2016.

Officials from the Health Department’s Oral Health division have been actively involved with the MOHLTC in planning for the new program. As part of the implementation, the Ministry has replaced the current CINOT and Preventive OPHS with a new HSO protocol that outlines the role for public health units in the administration of the new program. Health units will continue to have a robust role in screening children and providing care, as well as an expanded role in navigating clients and dental providers through the system.

The Oral Health division will continue to provide dental care for children in the Health Department’s Oral Health clinic at the Whitby Mall and preventive portable clinics in schools. We will continue to provide oral health school screenings and education in all publicly-funded schools, as well as oral health promotion at community events working with community partners. Staff will continue to support the Region’s Department of Social Services in the provision of emergency and discretionary dental benefits for adults on OW.

Improving access to early intervention

Early experiences can greatly influence the development of infants and young children with an impact that lasts well into adulthood. When an infant is identified with developmental delays or risk factors for development, the earlier services and supports are put in place, the better the outcomes are for children and their families.

In January 2015, Infant and Child Development (IDC) introduced a revised service model which provides priority service for infants birth to three-years old, while limiting service for children three to five-years old. In this way, ICD is able to provide earlier intervention by initiating service to families by reducing wait times. In 2015, IDC achieved a 25 per cent reduction in wait times for families accessing service.

Other components of the revised service model include options such as clinic-based service for low-risk preterm infants and a service pathway for children referred with early signs of Autism Spectrum Disorder. In addition, ICD has developed promotional materials such as a revised program brochure, a Parent Handbook and an updated web page as part of the implementation of the service model.

Mental health supports for all stages of life

The Health Department promotes positive mental health across the lifespan and the prevention of suicide and self-harm through a variety of programs and services. These programs and services focus on supporting an individual’s mental well-being and resiliency.

Resiliency is the ability to handle life’s ups and downs in positive ways. There are many qualities that contribute to an individual’s resiliency. These include internal qualities such as self-control, emotional awareness, capacity to handle change and challenges, as well as external factors such as parent-child attachment, social connections with others, and work/school culture. Efforts that promote and foster resiliency also improve mental health.

Kids Can Cover

Examples of Health Department programs and services that promote mental well-being and resiliency at various ages and stages of life include:

  • The Healthy Babies Healthy Children (HBHC) program. Public health nurses (PHN) and family visitors conduct home visits with families of children under three-years old, to provide families with support based on their unique needs.
  • Perinatal mood disorder prevention and support through groups and resources.
  • Prenatal and postpartum parenting support through groups such as Babyville, Food 4 Thought, Supporting Mother and Infant Learning Experience (SMILE), the Teen Education and Mothering (TEAM) program, Basic Connections, clinics (e.g., breastfeeding) and other resources (e.g., online prenatal class).
  • Child care and preschool program support (e.g., Ontario Early Years Centres).
  • Working with school boards and individual schools to support mental health and to promote resiliency in children and youth, especially during times of transition (e.g., Welcome to Kindergarten events).
  • Participating as a member of the Durham Community Mobilization for Youth Suicide Prevention Action Group (a sub-group of Durham’s Children and Youth Planning Network), the Perinatal Mood Disorder Network and Durham’s Best Start Network.
  • Working with individual workplaces on the topic of mental health, resiliency and work stress.

In addition to these programs and services, the Health Department has developed a variety of resources to further support adults, parents, educators, schools and workplaces in building resiliency and promoting positive mental health.

Health Department programs have joined the conversation

Health Department programs have joined the conversation

Social media is about building conversations and relationships. Social media sites provide an opportunity for people to come together and discuss information about a variety of topics including health. By having public health participate in these conversations, followers have access to “real time” credible health information. In providing health information through a variety of social media channels, public health is able to reach diverse populations and communicate with the public through social connections.

In August 2015, the Health Department launched a new social media forum designed to engage with parents and families, and to provide trusted information on a variety of health-related topics. Durham Healthy Families can be found on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, offering information for parents and caregivers of children birth to 18-years old. These social media sites allow followers to post comments, ask questions and obtain direct feedback from a public health nurse who moderates the discussion and provides current, evidence-based health information.

Through the use of the Durham Healthy Families social media platforms, public health nurses discuss a variety of health topics including health before and during pregnancy, breastfeeding, vaccines, child safety, sexual health, physical activity, cancer screening and mental health, as well as alcohol and substance misuse. Since its launch through to December 2015, the Durham Healthy Families Facebook page received 1,454 likes, while the Twitter feed gained 344 followers.

The Durham Healthy Families social media sites are moderated Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Parents and caregivers are invited to join the conversation at or Also, check out the YouTube channel at Durham Healthy Families.

2015 Financial Information



Chronic Diseases & Injuries

$ 8,797,214

Region of Durham


Emergency Medical Services


Province of Ontario


Environmental Health & Emergency Preparedness


User/Program Fees


Family Health



Infectious Diseases



Professional & Administration Services







2013 Community Health Check-Up